Veterans News

ENVSC Programs and COVID-19

March 17, 2020

With COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of many activities and the continued recommendations of the CDC, we understand that many previously planned events are now cancelled or postponed.

Our priority right now is keeping our members and volunteers safe while still supporting veterans. Take care of yourself and don’t attend or plan any events or volunteer assignments that you are not comfortable with or that could jeopardize your health.

Please review these important updates regarding ENVSC programs right now.

Freedom Grants

We know that many Lodges are unable to hold events and projects as planned, given that many VA and veterans facilities are restricting volunteers and large gatherings are postponed.

To help ensure that veterans are receiving needed help in this difficult time, we are relaxing normal Freedom Grant guidelines for the next few months to allow Lodges to do what is necessary to serve veterans in need.

For the next two months, Lodges may donate remaining 2019-20 Freedom Grant funds or supplies to veteran’s causes. If you have funds remaining due to a cancelled project, please email Vets@elks.org for approval and include your proposed change and a new budget.

Additionally, Freedom Grants for the 2020-21 year will not go online April 1 as previously planned. This year’s Freedom Grant applications will now be available starting June 1. Stay tuned to elks.org for further details on this change. For information about ENF Grants, visit elks.org/cip.

Voluntary Service

Many VA facilities and State Veterans Homes have restricted volunteers and visitor access. Even if your facility hasn’t done so, please use your judgement.

For the next few months, we are lifting restrictions on involvement for Representatives and Deputy Representatives. You do not need to visit your facilities or interact with veterans for now. If you continue to file reports, we will continue to send your monthly allocation. If there was no activity, simply write that on your report and submit it.

Welcome Home

Many VA facilities are restricting volunteer access, including for Welcome Home Kit deliveries. Talk to your VA contact or community partner about how to best move forward. Consider telling your community partner that you will have to pause your involvement in this program temporarily, in the interest of everyone’s health. Online delivery from websites like Amazon or Walmart may be an option.

We expect there may be shortages of cleaning supplies, toilet paper, groceries, and other household essentials commonly included in kits. Look into other needs the veteran may have, reach out to your community for high-need items, and consider including a $25 gift card for the veteran to shop when stores are restocked. Reach out to our office if you have questions or concerns.

Ways to Help

If you’re looking for ways to help during this time, here are a few needs that are common and will help vulnerable veterans during this crisis.

  • Consider supporting food banks or other nonprofit organizations that provide essential services. Many individuals in the service industry and other industries may not be able to work during this time and will need help meeting basic needs without regular income.
  • Donate cards, games, books, and puzzles to Veterans facilities. Many nursing homes and residential facilities won’t be able to accept visits from guests, and veterans may need other ways to pass the time. Consider other services or support you might offer Veterans facilities.
  • Support homeless shelters and assistance programs. For those who don't have anywhere safe to go, this time is even more difficult. Consider donations to programs that will help vulnerable veterans during this time.
Stay healthy, and take care of yourself. As always, thanks for what you do for veterans. Please email Vets@elks.org with any questions.

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